Quotes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Saturday, 29 October 2011

“A ra­tio­nal an­ar­chist be­lieves that con­cepts such as ‘state’ and ‘so­ci­ety’ and ‘gov­ern­ment’ have no ex­is­tence save as phys­i­cal­ly ex­em­pli­fied in the acts of self-re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als. He be­lieves that it is im­pos­si­ble to shift blame, share blame, dis­trib­ute blame… as blame, guilt, re­spon­si­bil­i­ty are mat­ters tak­ing place in­side hu­man be­ings singly and nowhere else. But be­ing ra­tio­nal, he knows that not all in­di­vid­u­als hold his eval­u­a­tions, so he tries to live per­fect­ly in an im­per­fect world…aware that his ef­fort will be less than per­fect yet undis­mayed by self-knowl­edge of self-fail­ure.”

[…]

“My point is that one per­son is re­spon­si­ble. Always. […] In terms of morals there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each re­spon­si­ble for his own acts.”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pp 84 – 85

I’m struck at how very ex­is­ten­tial­ist that quote is. Just as I’m struck at how very apro­pos the fol­low­ing quote is to the #oc­cu­py move­ment.

“A man­aged democ­ra­cy is a won­der­ful thing […] for the managers…and its great­est strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is de­fined as ‘re­spon­si­ble’ and the man­agers de­fine what is ‘ir­re­spon­si­ble.’”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pg 256

Limit Approaching Zero

Tuesday, 1 July 2003

I’m fair­ly well read in ex­is­ten­tial­ist lit­er­a­ture, I still buy in­to por­tions of it, for they al­low great strength to be present with­in an in­di­vid­u­al, there­by strength­en­ing my­self.

But as with all things in me, there is an in­evitable back­lash. Although I am not quite sure this one is a true back­lash or mere­ly an­oth­er spin.

Instead of free­dom of choice in the world, we are to­tal­ly lim­it­ed by that very free­dom.

My un­der­stand­ing of ex­is­ten­tial­ism, is that, though the world is in­her­ent­ly mean­ing­less, we as hu­mans, have the abil­i­ty to cre­ate our own mean­ing for our­selves with­in the world, thus giv­ing our­selves con­trol over our lives.

But this se­ries of choic­es has an­oth­er side. If I make a choice, by its de­f­i­n­i­tion, I have al­so ex­clud­ed oth­er choic­es, there­by lim­it­ing my own ex­is­tence. However, if I make no choice [in and of it­self still a choice], I re­main stag­nant and lim­it my­self in that way.

An ex­am­ple:

You are in a room with two doors. You can go through one of them, or you can go through the oth­er [sound a bit like the Matrix: Reloaded, or the Lady and the Tiger?], or you can go through nei­ther and re­main in the room. These are your choic­es.

If you choose to go through one door, you ex­clude go­ing through the oth­er, and ex­clude choos­ing nei­ther, you have lim­it­ed your choic­es, and moved for­ward.

It works the same with the oth­er door.

If no choice is made, you just re­main, and are lim­it­ed to the cur­rent set of choic­es.

So it should be un­de­ni­able, if a per­son is con­cerned with pro­gress mak­ing a de­ci­sion and mov­ing for­ward is prefer­able to re­main­ing still.

Yet each de­ci­sion cuts off the pos­si­bil­i­ties that oth­er choic­es could have made. Thus, the abil­i­ty to choose the path you fol­low, the ex­is­ten­tial­ist free­dom of mean­ing, con­tains with­in it a para­dox. You choose what path not not to fol­low as well. This free­dom, con­sid­ered the ul­ti­mate free­dom [by me at least], is lim­it­ing.

In any case, we are bound by forces out­side of our con­trol. Since we all die, this lim­it­ing free­dom is on­ly some­thing that is as ex­tant as our mind.

Metaphysics is a whole dif­fer­ent ball­game.

c’est la vie.